‘TheGrio Awards’ honoree attorney Ben Crump on raising the value of Black life in America

Affectionately named “Black America’s attorney general,” Ben Crump was presented with theGrio Awards' Justice Icon trophy.

Benjamin Crump has earned high praise for his tireless work as a civil rights attorney, standing tall as a champion of justice for those in need. The bevy of high-profile cases he’s taken on are just a small measure of the man affectionately referred to as “Black America’s attorney general.”

Crump, 53, recently spoke with theGrio’s Washington D.C bureau chief and senior White House correspondent, April D. Ryan, about the attorney’s recent receipt of theGrio Awards’ Justice Icon honor and why he fights so hard for Black lives in the court of law.

TheGrio Awards Justice Icon Ben Crump delivers a speech at theGrio Awards at the Beverly Hilton Oct. 22, 2022 in Beverly Hills. (Screenshot/theGrio)

The rise of Ben Crump

Ben Crump was born Oct. 10, 1969, in Lumberton, North Carolina, and completed his high school studies in Plantation, Florida, ahead of entering Florida State University to obtain his undergraduate and law degrees. While Crump came to prominence in 2012 after the fatal shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, he took on cases that had implications of racial injustice and continues to do so.

In addition to Martin, Crump has represented the families of Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Jacob Blake, and Breonna Taylor, among others. Crump and his law practice also took on cases regarding the ongoing Flint water crisis and represented plaintiffs in a 2019 lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson over allegations that the company’s baby powder product caused ovarian cancer among Black women.

Along with Crump’s advocacy for justice, he is also the president of the National Civil Rights Trial Lawyers Association and was the first African-American chair of the Florida State University School of Law Board of Directors.

Ben Crump’s life and rise as an attorney were the subject of a documentary, “Civil: Ben Crump,” released on Netflix. For many, it was the first intimate portrayal of Crump’s life both in front of the cameras and behind the scenes, humanizing the celebrated attorney while reaffirming the purpose of his mission in law. 

Ben Crump on advocacy

During his chat with Ryan, Ben Crump shared the joy of being an advocate for his community and his commitment to centering Black lives. Crump told Ryan that being awarded the Justice Icon honor “is more incentive to go fight in courtrooms, not only in the court of law but in the court of public opinion, to continue to be an unapologetic defender of Black life, Black liberty and Black humanity.

He added, “We have to continue, as Byron Allen counsels me, constantly raise the value of Black life to the point where it is financially unsustainable for them to kill us unjustly.”

The court of public opinion

Ryan asked Crump how his approach to law inside the courtroom differs from the court of public opinion and what effects it has on the balance of justice.

(Photo by PurplePPL Media)

“We have to remember that the court of public opinion, just like [former Supreme Court Justice] Ruth Bader Ginsburg said when she was fighting for gender equality, that way before the courts decided to give women equal pay, equal consideration, society had already rendered their verdict,” said Crump.

He added, “George Floyd is a perfect example. Once you saw that video of George Floyd being tortured to death and hearing him narrate the documentary of his own death. Ahmaud Arbery lynched for jogging home Black. Not in 1940, not in 1950, but in 2020.”

Crump said the court of opinion played a significant role in the verdict of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted for Floyd’s murder. “The court of public opinion rendered its verdict, and that verdict influenced the courts of law because the Department of Justice knew that if they were to have eluded justice, that there would have been [more than] protests,” Crump said. “There would have been pandemonium in the community.”

The role of journalists

Ben Crump thanked Ryan and members of the press for their journalistic tenacity in highlighting injustices against Black people, adding that reporting stories has a measurable influence on how cases are ultimately judged. 

“Thanks to people like you, April Ryan, who continue to write about it, even when they don’t want us to write about the value of our lives, it influences those judges because they know the whole world is watching. And we will give a voice to those voiceless brothers and sisters that have been taken from this earth far too soon,” said Crump.

Ben Crump on “Byron Allen Presents theGrio Awards”

On Saturday, Nov. 26, “Byron Allen Presents theGrio Awards” will air on CBS and on theGrio Cable Network on Sunday, Nov. 27. Below, we feature a brief excerpt of Benjamin Crump’s acceptance speech after receiving the Justice Icon award.

“You know, I was with Cameron Mitchell, my partner, when I first found out that I was going to be honored with this Grio class of icons. And I was both very humbled and somewhat amused because immediately I thought of Mr. Byron Allen, who is not only a friend, but a mentor,” Ben Crump said, adding that Mr. Allen pushed him to up the lawsuit dollar amount connected to the police shooting death of 26-year-old Dallas man Botham Jean.

Crump continued, “And I understand so much of what Byron is saying, because it really is about raising the value of Black life in America. So, I thank you, Byron, for your continuous counsel.”

Watch Byron Allen Presents theGrio Awards at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26 on CBS and 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27 on theGrio Cable Network. Check your local listings.